On to my gleanings about the prophetic, divination, and quirky nature of three! From 'two's company, three's a crowd' to 'and baby makes three,' this number shows a wide spectrum of possibilities.
Three can be holy or it can be a curse. These are some of its forms:
Pythagorean numbers: the triad
Roman: Tres or Tertius is the Roman word for three and gives us the words tertiary and trey.
Greek's tris (Sanskrit tri) gives us many words of '3' like triad, triangulate, triathlon, triceps, tricolored, tricorn, tricuspid, tricycle, trident, triform, trifurcate, trimester, trinity, trilogy, triplets, tripod, and triceratops.
From geometry, we have triangles connecting three points and three lines, and while pyramids look triangular, they actually have four sides squared with a fifth as the base, but a composite of angles with three dimensions of length, width, and depth. In astronomy, the Earth is the third planet from the sun, and the only one we know for sure has life; three times is the charm! In biology, insects have a head, thorax, and abdomen. The table of elements in chemistry lists Lithium (Li) as the element with atomic number 3. Chemistry also gives us TNT (trinitrotoluene) and Nitroglycerin (trinitroglycerin), so three can be very explosive! One early form of transportation was the Triga, a chariot drawn by three horses. We pedal tricycles and soon might see three wheel cars. In architecture, a triforium, or arched gallery, is often found running the length of the nave in cathedrals.
Color systems often break colors into triads for mixing purposes. In art, the primary colors are red, blue, and yellow; secondary colors are green, purple, and orange. The CYMK color system uses cyan, magenta, and yellow. The RGB color system uses red, green, and blue.
March is the third month, named after the Roman god Mars, the god of war and chaos, but it is also tied to agriculture. History shows many soldiers were farmers for most of the year but called to do battle in March (this duty month later became May under Charlemagne). The third day of the week (when Sunday is the first day on the week's calendar) is Tuesday, named after the Norse god Tyr, who was the god of single combat, and who is tied to the Roman God Mars. Traditionally, though, the week ends on Sunday, making Wednesday the third day of the week. Calendars have a tradition of causing confusion. During the Medieval era through the Renaissance, society had the threes estates: the nobles, the clergy, and the commoners. Today we have the one-percenters, politicians, and the greater masses. A few generations ago, we had the Third Reich, which showed three's evil.
Socially, families should include a father, a mother, and a child or children, which establishes three as another number of family and relationships, In numbers the combination of one and two, father and mother, to create the child, three, and make the family, which establishes three a number of completion.
Games and sports contain many instances of three such as three of a kind in poker. Triathlons include swimming, biking, and running. To start the race, the starter might say, “1, 2, 3, Go!” This makes three the 'go' number.
We have three-legged races and three-gaited show horses (the three basic gaits walk, trot, canter). In baseball, if your get three strikes you’re out, three outs and your side retires, a three-base hit is a good thing which get a runner to the third plate but not home.
Christians believe in the Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. The Third Commandment is ‘Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in Vain.’ Three was an important number in the Bible as there were three wise men, three kings, the cock crowed trice, Peter denied Christ three times. So three can be a number of betrayal. Three crosses were at the crucifixion, and Christ rose on the third day. Three appears often in Revelation:
- Revelation 8:13 As I watched, I heard an eagle that was flying in midair call out in a loud voice: "Woe! Woe! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth, because of the trumpet blasts about to be sounded by the other three angels!"
- Revelation 9:18 A third of mankind was killed by the three plagues of fire, smoke and sulfur that came out of their mouths.
- Revelation 16:13 Then I saw three evil spirits that looked like frogs; they came out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet.
- Revelation 16:19 The great city split into three parts, and the cities of the nations collapsed.
- Revelation 21:13 There were three gates on the east, three on the north, three on the south and three on the west.
Druids believed three was number of the unknown God. Hindus have the Trimurti, the Gods Brahma, Vishnus, and Siva; and Buddhism has the Three signs of Being.
Astrological threes include the House of Gemini guided by the planet Mercury. It is considered the house of intellect and the mind. In numerology, the letters of three are c, l, u (again letters are counted 1 through 9 — usually to establish a person's number by adding the numbers of the letters of their name). Three is the number of time and fate as shown in past, present and future, making three a number of wisdom. Man learns from the past, lives in the present, and plans for the future. In learning, three represents the curriculum of music, geometry, and astrology, but during the Renaissance students were taught the Trivium or grammar, logic, and rhetoric. As the number of the Trinity, it is a holy number. It is a holy number that represents completeness in family as represented in man, woman, and child, and shows both spiritual and sexual power in procreation. Therefore it symbolizes continuity and life. It also resolves the conflict posed between one and two by creating another so that three indicates change or a solution is at hand. Pythagoreans didn't consider 1 and 2 numbers so for them, three became the first odd number.
Three has a negative side, too. When three is against you, it shows incompleteness, divorce, separation, child abduction, an individual lacking sexual desire, and barrenness.
The empress or Earth mother, another aspect of the goddess of love, or Venus, is the third card in Tarot Divination. She bears the fruit of the virgin's promise. She represents the seeds, or ideas sown in the unconscious. As a powerful woman, she also symbolizes material wealth, marriage, fertility for would-be parents, farmers, and people in creative arts. If reversed or not in good placement with other cards, the Earth mother may mean infertility, dissipation, loss of wealth, sometimes by destruction of famine or war. The reversed card can also predict family problems.
Three has several iconic symbols: the trident, the three-leafed clovers, and the triangle.
In literature, folk lore, performance, and art:
- Triptych (3 part painting)
- Trilogy – a three volume set of books
- Three graces, Three fates, Three Questions of the Sphinx, mythology
- Three Penny Opera
- Three Musketeers
- Three Pigs, Three Billy Goat Gruffs, and Three Bears, in folktales
- Music: Rub-a-dub-dub, Three Men in a Tub; Three Blind Mice
- Larry, Moe & Curly
Common Triads include:
- Beginning, middle, end
- Body, soul, spirit
- Earth, sea, sky
- Father, mother, son
- Father, Son, Holy Ghost
- Fish, flesh, fowl
- Length, width, height
- Liberty, equality, fraternity
- Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness
- Man, woman, child
- Milk, wine, honey
- In Psychology: Ego, super-ego, id
- Reading, writing, arithmetic
- Reduce, recycle, reuse
- Sun, moon, stars
- accidents (deaths) come in three
- giving someone the third degree
- good (or bad) things come in threes
- leaves of three, let it be (poison ivy)
- odd man out
- third wheel
- three chances
- three sheets to the wind
- three wishes
- three-ring circus
- three-day weekend
- two’s company, three’s a crowd
So there it is — all aspects of three, but certainly a list that is not all-inclusive.
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Wikipedia has a page on Three
. Sources Some information was drawn from:
The Discoverers by Daniel J. Boorstin
A Complete Guide to the Tarot by Eden Gray
The Numerology Workbook by Julia Line
The Dartmouth Number Symbolism in the Middle Ages
site offers much info on numbers in Christianity.